On Prison Ink Both Good and Bad but Mostly Bad
(Part 1 by Polish Avenger)
Polish Avenger – Formerly an undergraduate in software engineering, he was sentenced to 25 years because his friend was shot dead during a burglary, and in Arizona if a burglar gets killed then the accomplices get 25 year sentences.
Prisoners are a heavily tattooed bunch. Several reasons include:
- work done in here is a lot cheaper – a couple of packs of smokes versus thousands of dollars out there
- we can express individuality through rebellion and unique markings – cue Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, “I am not a number. I am a free man!”
- we join gangs and have to show how down we are
- we get bored and have nothing better to do
It’s a shame that so much prison work sucks. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but by and large most of it is crappy. Most doesn’t start that way. Guys spend literally hundreds of hours under the artist’s needle, drawing some fantastically intricate and well-shaded designs. Just doing one shoulder to wrist can run upwards of 20 hours, depending on the design and artist. It’ll look great for about two years, after which the whole thing will turn blue and smear together.
A large part of the problem is the ink. Since they won’t sell us real tattoo ink we must rely on homebrewed versions. The basic recipe is to find some plastic (dominoes, chess pieces, etc.) or a tub of hair grease, light it ablaze and capture the resulting soot. Now those of you with a chemistry background will know that burning said compounds produces a whole range of delightfully toxic cancer-causing byproducts. So what to do with these byproducts, i.e. soot? What else, inject them into your skin! I honestly don’t know if inked-up cons have higher cancer rates – that would be an interesting medical study.
Other sources of ink I’ve seen over the years have included inkjet cartridges and even copier toner powder. We can only imagine the chemical soup in that stuff. Ah, well. The important thing is Get the tattoo done no matter what!
After all that, the curious thing is that once all the endless, agonizing hours are put in, nobody really looks at them any more. Maybe in here, we’re all so used to nearly everyone being “slung down” that we hardly notice. Hell, when I first came in it was a bit of a shock, especially seeing the fellows with the fully decorated shaved head and/or face. I’d think, Geez, that dude is hardcore! Now it doesn’t even warrant a second glance. About the only similar reaction today is seeing someone with no tattoos – and the thought is, Geez, what a sissy.
Click here for Polisher Avenger’s first blog.
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Shaun P. Attwood